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Thursday, 17 May 1973
Page: 2282

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) - I compliment the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) on his remarks. Like him, I do not believe that ignorance is bliss, although it may be comfortable. I want to speak on a matter which is of direct concern to the area I represent. This matter is creating some very unfortunate situations because of its use as a vehicle for campaigning in the Victorian State elections. Prior to the 1970 State elections undertakings were given by both major political Parties to establish a fourth university in Victoria. Following the 1970 election a committee was set up to inquire into a fourth university in Victoria. That committee reported in January 1972 to the Victorian Government. Its recommendation was that a university of external studies should be established, that it should be incorporated in 1972, that planning should take place over the 2 trienniums to 1978 and that a site in the eastern suburbs of Victoria should be acquired for the proposed university.

That was the report of the Victorian Government's own committee of inquiry. The report also indicated that study centres should be established in some strategic centres in the country and that at least one site for a branch of the university should be acquired in a country area. The Victorian Government did not act on the report, and that is its prerogative. It has a perfect right to do what it likes with reports made to it. Unfortunately that is a standard it does not apply to the Commonwealth Government. The Victorian Government believes the Commonwealth Government is bound by the reports of the experts advising the Commonwealth Government, but that the Victorian Government can accept or reject advice from its own expert advisers.

Towards the middle of 1972 the Victorian Minister for Education had some discussions with the Commonwealth Universities Commission at which he raised the matter of establishing a multi-campus university or a university in a country area. He was told by the Universities Commission that it did not consider it would be a viable proposition. In October 1972 formal discussions took place between the Universities Commission, the Victorian Minister for Education and the then Minister for Education and Science. At that stage, 9 months after the report of the expert committee had been brought forward, the Victorian Minister for Education had no proposals whatsoever to put before the committee. He was asked to provide details of the site of the proposed university, which I would have thought was a basic matter, the numbers of students envisaged at the commencement of the university and 5 years afterwards, the academic structure of the university and other details relating to its operations. This was in October last year.

In February this year the Universities Commission wrote to the Victorian Minister of Education asking for the details to be provided. That was on 5th February, to be accurate. On 12th February the Victorian Premier, Mr Hamer, in a Press release announced a proposed multi-campus university to be established at Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo. I do not think any honourable member representing any of those areas would have been unhappy about that announcement. But what concerns me is that it is now the end of May and not even the site of the administrative centre is known to anyone except possibly the Victorian Minister for Education, who is not announcing it because he may well offend the 2 other cities named. He does not want to do this because of the coming Victorian election. That is why the information is being kept in the dark.

Mr Erwin - It will be in Ballarat.

Mr SCHOLES - The honourable member for Ballaarat thinks that the administrative centre will be established in Ballarat, and the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) who is sitting beside him, I am sure would like to think it will be established in Bendigo.

Mr Bourchier - lt will be in Bendigo.

Mr SCHOLES - There, we have complete unity among members of the Liberal Party on this matter. They both claim to have the administrative centre and I disagree completely with them.

The Commonwealth Government and the then Minister for Education referred the matter of a university in or near Melbourne, in or near Sydney and at Albury-Wodonga, to the Australian Universities Commission in December, 2 months before the Victorian Government's announcement was made. The Victorian Minister for Education was asked - this was subsequent to 5th February - to provide details of the proposed university. No such information has as yet been provided to the Commonwealth, yet that Minister is running around Victoria saying that the Commonwealth has rejected his proposals. Based on the information that has been provided to the Commonwealth and the information which has been provided in the local areas, we could well use a discarded external toilet which is no longer required, put a sign 'university' across the door, and that would meet the description of the seats of learning which are proposed by the Victorian Government at this stage for Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong. It would at least be a place to sit and think.

I am concerned that on Monday of this week the Victorian Minister for Education summoned municipal leaders from Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo to Melbourne on what was reported as a deputation, to tell them that they should demand of their Federal members of Parliament - I am sure all members concerned have had a telegram on this subject - that the Commonwealth should support the Victorian proposals. The municipal leaders concerned are being totally hypocritical about this. If 1 went to the local government bodies in Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong and said to them: 'I want to build a motel', and gave no information other than the site on which I proposed to build, they would tell me to go away and get plans, specifications, planning permits and to give absolute and detailed information to the councils before they would consider my proposal. But they are making these claims at the behest of the Victorian Minister, who, 18 months after the Victorian report was made and 3 years after he promised the establishment of the university to the people of Victoria, has not provided details of the academic structure of the proposed university, or in fact any information whatsoever. The Victorian Government is claiming that the Commonwealth Government should establish an expert committee which will make recommendations. This is a committee which I am quite sure that the former Government would have listened to also. The Victorian Government wants that committee to recommend allocating money to a university which has no structure and no form. There has been only the announcement of the towns and some general courses which have not been allocated to any centre.

I am not concerned that the university will not be built. I am quite sure that it will be built. But the Victorian Government has said that it should be started in 1976. It cannot start in 1976 if funds are not allocated this year. Very serious educational matters have to be considered, such as the relationship of the university with the tertiary institutions already existing in the centres named, the duplication of courses, and the great deal of planning to be done. Another thing about which I am concerned is that there are people who have become bemused by the word 'university' and will destroy or discard all other tertiary institutions in the area. What is required and what is absolutely essential is that when the university is established in these areas - J fully support the proposition and know that it will be established; I do not quarrel with that - that university should be based on the best interests of academic tertiary education for the people in those areas. I think that those people who are running round making political gimmickry for the sake of an election in which possibly no seats will change hands in these areas are doing a total disserve to the people they purport to represent.

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